The judge in British businessman Shrien Dewani's trial ruled that certain evidence relating to his sexuality is not admissible.
“I have considered the arguments addressed to me. I rule the evidence inadmissible on the basis that it is not relevant,” Western Cape High Court deputy Judge President Jeannette Traverso said.
She was addressing prosecutor Adrian Mopp after he attempted to lead evidence about certain e-mail communications between Dewani and an undisclosed man between June and August 2009 found on his dead wife Anni's laptop.
Mopp called his fourth witness, English cybercrime unit official Mark Roberts, to testify on the e-mails retrieved from a copy of the hard drive.
Dewani is accused of masterminding Anni's murder during their honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010. He has pleaded not guilty to the five counts against him, maintaining that the couple were the victims of a hijacking in Gugulethu, Cape Town, on November 13, 2010.
Mopp had to argue why the e-mails were admissible evidence after Francois van Zyl, for Dewani, objected to their relevance.
The prosecutor said Dewani had provided the court with a version of events around his sexuality and he wished to lead evidence around certain disclosures that were made in the e-mails.
Traverso asked why his sexuality was relevant.
“Here we have a set of facts which, in isolation, may appear to be a rather strange set of facts,” Mopp replied.
He said the e-mails provided a context for these facts and referred to a liaison where certain disclosures were made and counselling given.
Traverso did not seem convinced and Mopp continued to argue in the absence of his colleague Shareen Riley, who was absent for a second day due to illness.
“It was apparent from the e-mails that the e-mails show he was conflicted about whether to get married or whether to come out,” Mopp said.
“Obviously it is not a motive to kill but the man expresses a conflict within himself.”
He said their principle submission was that this was relevant evidence.
In reply, Van Zyl said the e-mails provided graphic details about sexual preferences, what the men wished to do to each other and just two or three references to the conflict Mopp referred to.
“They clearly had a discussion on whether to come out. His advice from his friend is that commitment to marriage is a very serious commitment and he must think seriously about it,” the lawyer said.
Dewani sat in the dock nodding his head and listening carefully.
Van Zyl said the e-mails were highly prejudicial to his client because it involved his character, and the dates were too far out to have relevance.
Mopp countered that he was going to lead evidence later that in September 2009, Dewani expressed a similar conflict to another witness they intended calling.
He wanted to prove that the courtship and relationship between Dewani and his wife was “not as plain-sailing” as he claimed.
Traverso seemed unmoved and said that was not in dispute. She said his plea explanation had made clear both his sexuality and troubles within the relationship.
She delivered her ruling on the evidence after a short adjournment.
The courtroom sat in stunned silence and Mopp looked worried as his prospects for providing evidence around a motive for murder seemed to dwindle.
The accused's family smiled and looked at each other.
Mopp said he would need a short amount of time to call his next witness.